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At this workshop with Alison Elvin we discussed weeds – why they are growing, how to identify them and what they look like in the paddock.
“Weeds are messengers – they can tell you a lot about your land and what is happening with the soil” Alison Elvin 2017
So why are weeds a problem and how can we manage them? Weeds are usually performing a function within the landscape or filling a niche where they can easily out compete other plants. They often grow on bare, acidic, compacted soils with little top soil. The most important thing that you can do to stop weeds getting a foothold is to maintain ground cover and protect top soil.
General weed management guidelines
Serrated Tussock has an interesting history in Australia. It was introduced in pack saddles before WW1 and only became a problem after the Rabbit Drought. Serrated Tussock is a problem because it is highly unpalatable to stock, it has a high silica content and the microbes in the rumen won’t break it down. It will kill stock that graze it when there is nothing else to eat. Over grazing pastures will compound the problem because the weeds that are toxic to the stock will proliferate since they are the least desirable to graze.
Here are some tips to identifying Serrated Tussock and controlling it:
NSW WeedWise – NSW DPI website with descriptions and photos of common weeds along with information about control and management options.
Weed Spotter – ACT and Southern Tablelands website for reporting and mapping weeds and weed control actions – citizen science in action.
Weed Management Guide – Serrated Tussock – information sheet about Serrated Tussock issues, identification, spread and management options by CRC Weed Management.
Serrated Tussock Resistance to Fluproponate – information from the Serrated Tussock Working Party for NSW and ACT about the developing resistance to herbicides and how you can help reduce this problem.
This workshop was made possible with funding from the Australian Government and support from South East Local Land Services and Queanbeyan Palerang Regional Council. Thank you to our hosts for contributing to a successful day and our network sponsors, the Palerang Local Action Network for Sustainability.
Matthew Lieschke and Dr Bill Johnson from South East Local Land Services led the discussion and practical session about managing lambs and ewes at lamb marking. Lamb marking is a key animal husbandry task for people raising lambs and typically involves ear tagging, vaccination, castration and tail docking.
Plan to mark lambs at 2-8 weeks of age. Younger lambs are likely to recover faster. Lamb marking should be completed before the lambs are 12 weeks old. If you have lambs arriving over a long period, it might be better to have several lamb marking times. Marking before the end of October reduces the risk of fly strike.
Preparation of the site and equipment will help you to minimise infections. Generally a temporary holding pen out in a paddock is cleaner than the sheep yards and a good place to do marking. Avoid mud and dusty conditions. Cover surfaces where equipment is placed with a clean cloth or towel. You can use a lamb cradle or hold the lamb securely in your arms (see photo).
Disinfect any equipment between animals using Hibitane (Chlorhexidine). Push needles into a sponge soaked in the disinfectant solution after each injection. Note that most other types of disinfectants are deactivated by organic matter and need to be changed frequently.
Vaccinate each lamb at lamb marking with 5 in 1 or 6 in 1 vaccine for sheep with a follow up booster vaccination 4 weeks later. This is injected subcutaneously (under the skin) either in the neck or the brisket (if holding the lamb). Needles for sheep vaccinations should be sharp, 18 gauge and 6mm or 12mm long.
Lambs that will be kept for more than 2 years can be vaccinated with Gudair vaccine for lifelong protection against Johne’s Disease. Be careful with Gudair vaccine which can have bad side effects for people who accidentally touch or inject it.
[Options now available for reducing pain at marking include Numnuts and Buccalgesic - Ed.]
The recommended tail length for tail docking is three palpable joints. In ewe lambs, a tail of this length covers the vulva. Shorter tail lengths take longer to heal, can affect the movement of the tail and increase the likelihood of fly strike. If you are using lamb marking rings, the ring should be placed on the joint rather than the bone between joints, the tail will usually drop off in about 3-4 weeks.
Castration of male lambs is often done by placing a lamb marking ring over the scrotum, making sure that both testicles are included and that the teats are not included before releasing the ring into place (see ‘A producers guide to sheep husbandry practices’ below for more details).
Lambs need to have an ear tag with the Property Identification Code (PIC) if they will ever be moved off the property. The tag can also have other information such as a number for the flock or individual sheep and a V if vaccinated for Johne’s Disease. Different coloured ear tags are used for each year but this is not compulsory. Pink tags are only used to replace tags where a sheep was born on another property and has lost its tag. Use a tag applicator that matches the type of tags. Dip the tag in disinfectant before applying half way along and half way up the ear. A convention is that ewe lambs are tagged in their right ear, ram/wether lambs are tagged in their left ear.
After marking, allow lambs time to ‘mother up’ with the ewes. It can help to put the lambs in the middle of the paddock and then let the ewes out to the lambs and give them time to find each other. The male lambs will often lie down.
Plan to wean at 12-14 weeks of age. In tougher years, it can be better to wean earlier so that ewes can start to put weight on in preparation for joining. By 8 weeks old the lamb is getting less than 10% of its nutritional intake from milk. Wean lambs onto your best paddocks that have been rested for 3 months to reduce worm burdens and don’t have nasty grass seed heads. Lambs are usually given their first drench at weaning. Weaning is also a good time for the lambs’ booster vaccination (if it hasn’t already happened).
A producers guide to sheep husbandry practices – Meat and Livestock Australia. This guide gives a comprehensive guide on best practice sheep husbandry and more detail on lamb marking procedures.
Sheep Ag Skills – A Practical Guide to Farm Skills
Sheep Weaning Best Practice (WA)
Early weaning and creep feeding of lambs in poor seasons (WA)
Creep feeding lambs (NSW DPI)
Options for weaning (Sheep 201)
This field day was made possible by funding from the Australian Government, in-kind support from South East Local Land Services and the Palerang Local Action Network for Sustainability. We thank them for their ongoing support.
This field day was about the practical aspects of fencing. Andy Taylor and Shane Laverty from the Rural Landscapes Program, South East Local Land Services discussed the theory of fencing and led a fencing demonstration.
There are some principles for fence design that usually apply. The best fence on the farm should be the boundary fence. When considering gate sizes choose larger gates that Rural Fire Service trucks can fit through – as a standard option choose 12′ (3.6m) wide gates if possible. If you have livestock, hang the gate on one side of the post so the gate can be opened flush with the fence when moving stock and the animals won’t get stuck between the gate and the fence. Gates located in corners usually work best – it is often difficult to get animals to go through a gate in the middle of a straight fence.
The type of fence that you install should be influenced by considerations such type of stock, cost, understanding where the water runs, different soil types, land capability, vegetation and watering points. A property planning field day can help with planning the type and location of fences. In some cases electric fences (permanent or temporary) may be an option.
Effective personal protection equipment is vital when fencing. This includes gloves, eye protection and protective ear muffs if you are using noisy mechanical equipment (for example when banging in steel posts).
There are many choices for fencing materials. Low tensile wire just keeps on stretching – medium tensile wire is a better option. Hinged joint fencing mesh comes in many sizes. The numbers in the hinged joint mesh name refer to the number of horizontal wires, fence height and distance between the vertical wires. For example, a 6/70/30 hinged joint mesh has 6 line wires, is 70cm high and the vertical wires are 30cm apart – this size suits smaller animals like sheep. A boundary fence might use 8/90/30. Hinged joint mesh has a top and bottom. The side with the smaller gaps is supposed to be closest to the ground. Usually you put plain wire through the steel posts (star pickets to the non-farmer) lined up with the top, middle and bottom of the hinged joint mesh and attach the mesh to the wires using fencing clips. Two more wires will usually be run in the space above the mesh. To get the fence height right, bang the steel posts into the ground until the bottom hole is just above the ground.
When repairing fences check the existing strainer posts, stays, steel posts and wire and see what can be salvaged. The most important part of the fence is the end assembly (strainer post and stay) and the most common type are steel. These can be galvanised or black steel and can be purchased as a complete kit.
South East Local Land Services Rural Living Guide – a comprehensive guide for anyone on the land, lots of useful resources including tips on fencing
Fencing Ag Guide – A practical Guide – available from Tocal College for purchase, has detailed information on building a fence including ends, corners, the law and fencing and more.
Land and Property Information website – information on boundary fencing and the law.
Commercial fencing guides – there are a range of materials online from the major fencing suppliers. Some of these pamphlets were handed out at the workshop. Here is a sample from Waratah Fencing, but you could also try Gallagher or Whites Group Fencing.
This event was made possible by funding supplied by the Australian Government and in kind support from South East Local Land Services. Thank you Mark and Rhonda who hosted the event on their farm and our sponsors the Palerang Local Action Network for Sustainability.
NSW DPI Primefact 302 Fat Scoring Sheep and Lambs has information about how to do fat scoring.
Pasture planning: our pastures in the Southern Tablelands follow a somewhat predictable growth pattern with most pasture growth in September and October. To minimise the costs of supplementary feeding, it is helpful to match stocking rates to pasture growth. In dry years there will be less grass.
Graz Clock is a spreadsheet created by Doug that can be used to help with understanding pasture cycles and planning stocking.
Attending a PROGRAZE course will teach you about how to manage pastures and grazing.
Supplementary feeding: if there is not enough grass and you want to keep your sheep then you will need to feed them extra. The amount to feed depends on the type of sheep (dry, pregnant, lambs, weaners) and the amount of grass in the pasture.
Feed such as wheat, barley, oats, corn or sheep nuts needs to be introduced slowly (say 50g/head/day for three days, then 100g/head/day and so on) so that you don’t poison your sheep. If they have never had the feed before then you need to be especially careful that a few brave sheep don’t eat the lot and die. Lupins are a safe option.
NSW DPI Primefact 331 Supplementary feeding of sheep in southern NSW has more information.
[See also the NSW DPI Drought and Supplementary Feed Calculator app which allows you to calculate feeding options for your sheep and pastures.]
Lambing time: generally it works best to time lambing so that lambs are being weaned when there is lots of grass. In the NSW Southern Tablelands, lambing in August means that the young lambs can take advantage of the peak grass growing time (September/October) and minimises the amount of supplementary feeding needed.
Joining: sheep have a 150 day gestation period so you need to put the rams in with the ewes in early March to get lambs in August. This is known as joining and can go on for about 5 weeks. You need to feed your rams well before this (lupins are good). Ewes will have more twins and triplets if they are fat score 3 or higher at joining.
Lamb marking is generally done when the lambs are two to six weeks old. This can involve ear marking, ear tagging, castration, tail docking and vaccination.
Shearing: in the merino wool industry, shearing has traditionally been done at the end of June but this means that the sheep use extra energy to keep warm instead of growing bigger lambs. If you shear sheep in winter you will need to give them supplementary feed.
Shearing in late November/early December can help reduce flystrike and problems with seeds burrowing into the skin.
It is best not to shear in the month before lambing when pregnant ewes need to spend lots of time eating.
Many meat sheep such as Dorpers don’t shed fully and may need shearing.
Mostly you need to shear when the shearer is available.
Fly strike: sheep with wet fleece or dags can get flystrike in the warm months. This is where flies lay eggs on damaged skin and maggots hatch and feed on the skin. Usually this happens around the tail (breech strike) or along the back (body strike). Generally sheep with wool have more problems with flystrike. See the FlyBoss website for more information about treatment and prevention measures.
Crutching is shearing the wool from around the tail and inside back legs to keep dags off the breech area. This helps to reduce breech strike. It is often done before and during the fly season and prior to lambing.
Parasitic worms: there are three main types of intestinal worms affecting sheep in the Capital region: Barber’s Pole Worm, Brown Stomach Worm and Black Scour Worm. If left uncontrolled, these can kill your sheep. Best practice worm management combines pasture management, faecal worm egg counts (WEC) and effective drenching. You need to do regular WECs if you want to have any idea about what is happening with worms in your sheep.
Kate Sawford, District Veterinarian for the Braidwood Region has written a useful guide to Controlling Worms in Sheep in the Braidwood Region.
The WormBoss website has extensive information about managing worms in sheep and helps you decide when drenching is needed. The Capital region is in the WormBoss NSW non seasonal rainfall area.
Worm egg count test kits are available from South East Local Land Services offices and rural suppliers. The test kit is free and has information about the costs for the tests.
Moving sheep around yards
Sheep need to be moved into and around yards for routine tasks such as fat scoring, shearing, hoof trimming, drenching and vaccinations. A sheep dog can help with this but many people on small farm holdings use a bucket with some feed rattling in it instead.
A bugle shaped layout for yards works well for funnelling sheep into a race or small space.
It is easiest to move sheep if you are beside them. The balance point is at their shoulder. If you move forward from this towards the head then the sheep will go backwards, if you move behind the balance point towards the back leg then the sheep moves forwards. Mostly it doesn’t work to stand behind the sheep. This all takes practise.
Drench is an oral treatment for worms. The WormBoss website provides extensive information about selection and use of drenches.
You need to know the weight of your sheep before drenching (so you need scales).
Drenching guns are often rather inaccurate in the doses they deliver. Use a beaker to collect a number of doses (say 8-10) to check for accurate volume.
Quarantine drench any new sheep arriving on your property and keep them in a quarantine paddock for at least three days. See NSW DPI Primefact 477 Quarantine Drenching – Don’t Import Resistant Sheep Worms.
Drenching at weaning is encouraged by Doug (even when WECs are low).
This video about drenching technique may be helpful.
Sheep are generally vaccinated with 5 in 1 or 6 in 1 vaccine. The vaccine is injected subcutaneously (under the skin), usually behind the ear on the neck.
This video about injecting technique may be helpful.
NSW DPI ‘Sheep Agskills: A Practical Guide to Farm Skills’, available CSIRO Publishing.
J Court, JW Ware and S Hides ‘Sheep Farming for Meat & Wool’, available CSIRO Publishing.
The Cattle Husbandry for Small Farms field day was held at DMB Galloways in Sutton on the 29 April 2017.
The day was led by Greg Meaker a former educator in beef cattle husbandry and management at Tocal Collage and District Livestock Officer with NSW Government Industry and Investment, Goulburn. Greg is also owner manager of two working properties in the Gunning district.
Key points and resources
Thank you to our hosts Dianne and Mark from DMB Galloways.
This field day was made possible by funding from the Australian Government, in-kind and volunteer support from South East Local Land Services, the Palerang Local Action Network for Sustainability and the ACT Regional Landcare Facilitator. We thank them all for their ongoing contribution to this project.
Stuart Myers from Equiculture presented a horse property planning seminar in March 2017.
Information about horses, fire and flood planning at the Equiculture website. This resource has links to other websites to help you plan for emergencies.
Healthy soil = Healthy Pasture find out more about managing soils by watching the short videos @ the soils network of knowledge
The Soil Food Web
Equine Permaculture and Property Planning
Paterson’s Curse – DPI Prime Fact Sheet on the weed and poisoning of horses.
NSW WeedWise Online - this website has detailed information on weeds and livestock. Of particular interest for horse owners are fireweed and Crofton weed
Thanks to our seminar hosts.
The event was made possible with funding from the Australian Government and support from South East Local Land Services and FuturePLANS.
At the Working with Weeds field day, Alison Elvin from Natural Capital Pty Ltd presented a compelling and informative story about weeds. Warren Schofield from ACT Biosecurity and Rural Services and Alice McGrath from South East Local Land Services also presented information on weed management and planning on the day.
According to the Australian Government it is estimated that weeds cost Australian farmers approximately $1.5 billion a year in weed control activities and $2.5 billion in lost agricultural production. So why are weeds such a problem and can we change our thinking to manage them better?
Key points from the field day:
Useful websites and links:
Weeds in Australia
South East Local Land Services Integrated Weed Management Plan
– A Land Managers Guide
– Planning Tool
Biological Control of Weeds
We also thank the following for their contribution:
The Healthy Land, Healthy Horse field day for horse owners was hosted by Geoff and Mark from Manna Park Agistment Centre in Bywong> This provided a beautiful setting for Stuart Myers from Equiculture to share the Equiculture system of horse management. A range of topics were discussed from horse biology to the importance of maintaining a diversity of plant species on farm for grazing.
Key messages were:
Information about moving horses in NSW
PIC information for horse owners
University of Maryland Rotational Grazing Institute
Equiculture resources and books
This field day is made possible with funding from the Australian Government. We also thank the following for their contribution:
The key take home messages from the workshop were:
Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline: 1800 675 888
Contact your Local Land Services District Vet
Resources and Information
Here is a collection of websites and information which may be relevant to your small farm.
NSW Food Authority website
Small Egg Farms
NSW Department of Primary Industries Primefacts and website
DPI Keeping Poultry on a Small Scale
Backyard Poultry Forum
Common Diseases of Backyard Chooks
Former NSW Department of Agriculture Sheep and Wool Officer, Col Langford, led an informative and interactive discussion aimed at improving the skills and knowledge of livestock managers. An outdoor practical session followed where participants learned about estimating the age of a sheep, how to catch sheep and fat scoring along with pasture and weed assessment.
South East Local Land Services District Veterinarian, Dr Kate Sawford detailed the legislative requirements for Property Identification Codes (PICS) and the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS). Did you know that all properties with stock (even just one animal) need a PIC? If you move sheep from one property to another then you need to record this in the online NLIS.
There was also a discussion about drenching, sheep diseases and routine management of sheep. The WormBoss website is a good resource for finding out managing intestinal worms in sheep to avoid unnecessary drenching.
Take home messages from the field day for participants Jennie and Susan were:
This field day was made possible by funding from the National Landcare Programme, from the Australian Government and support from South East Local Land Services.
Small Farms Network Capital Region IncPO Box 313BungendoreNSW 2621